When one thinks of whiskey or scotch it brings to mind a manly drink, perhaps a smoke-filled cigar bar filled with men. Which brings us to another fascinating fun fact, a portion of the popularity and growth in the spirit can be attributed to women. Back in the 1990s, only about 15% of whiskey drinkers in the US were women; now it’s up to 37% according to Fred Minnick, author of Whiskey Women. Some industry leaders, however, argue it’s much higher.
Much of the US whiskey was produced by women in the 18th century. Before industrial distilleries, women did almost all of the distilling - in their kitchens. Whiskey was used as a medicine for just about everything. Back then, whiskey was thought to keep people warm, help digestion, and even increase strength. Whiskey could not only cure problems but also prevent them! Wonder if it prevented hangovers too?
The ability to make a good whiskey would also make women good marriage material. The skill was so sought after that in the 1700’s men actually took out ads in the papers looking for women who could distill a good whiskey.
Even Presidents got in on the action! After leaving the Presidency and returning to his home at Mount Vernon, George Washington looked to whiskey and its potential to make money. Within 2 years his production increased more than 10 fold and he had become one of the largest distillers in the US when he passed in 1799. An interesting side note, now you can try Washington’s whiskey. The Mount Vernon estate has reconstructed the farm’s distillery and is producing an approximation of Washington’s own brand. We should note the estate says it is more of a moonshine or grain alcohol and not the whiskey we know today.
And speaking of moonshine, part of whiskey’s growth is due in part to the moonshine and new flavors of whiskey hitting the market. Unaged whiskey, also known as white whiskey or moonshine are easy to flavor and offer a higher alcohol content for those looking for something with a little more…kick. The premium whiskeys with liqueurs offer new tastes and appeal to those maybe just entering the whiskey market. Fireball anyone?
The popularity of whiskey is undeniably growing, with some anticipating it overtaking vodka in the next 5-10 years. While vodka is the giant volume king, one can’t ignore the growth of the high end whiskeys chipping away at vodka’s popularity. The distillers are benefiting from the authentic, hand crafted nature of whiskey not to mention how steeped in history it is. Whiskey has experienced a resurgence of craft distilleries and classic cocktails, helped along by pop culture – any Mad Men fans out there? Distillers have the distinct advantage of being able to change up barrels, grains, and malts, creating variations in flavor. It’s often made by old distilleries in small batches with years of aging, which both adds to the allure and limits production.
One note of caution…read the label when you venture out to try your whiskeys. Some are mass-produced and claim they are aged for 5 years…but the brand itself is only 3 years old. I enjoy truth in advertising and there’s nothing wrong with mass-produced spirits as long as the story matches the process!
We didn’t want to miss a reason to raise our glasses, so mark these whiskey holidays on your calendar! Of course we’ll break out the Jameson for St Patrick’s Day!
The 3rd Saturday in May is World Whiskey Day!
June 14th is National Bourbon Day
August 29th is National Whiskey Sour Day
Want more info on the fun facts in the blog? Check out these websites.